‘Fireman Joe’ running from LA to Arizona to honor fallen hotshots
PHOENIX — A Los Angeles-area firefighter has embarked by foot to Yarnell, Arizona, where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire five years ago Saturday.
Jose Zambrano, known as Fireman Joe, left from the Los Angeles County Fire Museum this past weekend on the approximately 375-mile trek to Yarnell, about 90 miles northwest of Phoenix.
Zambrano has finished more than 80 marathons in the last five years and three ultramarathons, but this may be the biggest challenge yet.
The El Segundo firefighter is making the journey with 40 pounds of fire gear and carrying 19 flags that he plans to place at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial after he arrives Saturday.
To hit the target date, Zambrano will have to run across the hot desert each day for 10-12 hours, covering 40-60 miles.
“Hopefully, the heat won’t hit me too bad, but if it does I might get rid of the jacket,” Zambrano said. “I’ll take breaks when I can. This isn’t a race, this is a journey.
“I want to finish and make sure I’m healthy, and finishing this journey for the guys (fallen hotshots) is what really matters.”
This won’t be Zambrano’s first visit to the site. The journey actually started four years when he was invited to the memorial by retired Los Angeles County firefighter Joe Woyjeck, whose son Kevin was one of the 19 men who died battling the Yarnell Hill Fire.
“That moment really put into perspective why I’m doing this,” Zambrano said. “I want the families to know this is for them. It’s not for me. It’s for the guys.
“It wasn’t lives we lost. We lost a lifetime with each one of those guys. They were sons, fathers, brothers, and they were friends. This is my way to pay it forward.”
According to the Running to Remember Facebook page, Zambrano is running to raise awareness and donations for the Kevin Woyjeck Explorers for Life Association, which helps young men and women participate in explorer programs related to fire careers.